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The Pontchartrain Hotel’s reputation precedes it: Located on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans’ handsome, oak-lined Garden District, the hotel is renowned for its richly storied past.
The current iteration of The Pontchartrain launched in 2016 after a $10 million facelift, but the 12-floor building’s story began almost a century before. Touting the same present name, which originates from Count de Pontchartrain from Louis XIV’s court, the property had first opened as a luxury apartment building in 1927.
By the 1940s, The Pontchartrain shifted gears and entered the hotelier space, welcoming through its front door stars including actress Rita Hayworth, singer Frank Sinatra, rock band The Doors and former presidents Gerald Ford and George H. Bush. Even playwright Tennessee Williams stayed here while penning “A Streetcar Named Desire.” (By the front desk, a framed reproduction of a page from Williams’ illustrious novel — with The Pontchartrain’s letterhead — is a nod to this fun fact.)
Today, the 106-room Pontchartrain has managed to carefully preserve much of its lavish beginnings and later history as the “Grand Dame;” for example, in the jewel-toned lobby, there are original crystal chandeliers, a restored terrazzo floor and a brass letterbox (formerly containing tenants’ mail). Silver Whistle Cafe — the hotel’s ‘50s-style, breakfast and lunch eatery that once attracted lawyers, businesspeople and other local hot shots — still has the same seating and high ceilings with ornate painted murals. (Don’t miss the famous homemade blueberry muffins, made with tender, loving care.) Even the hotel staff looks the part: All are dressed to the nines, with women in charming floral dresses and men donning smart seersucker jackets.
However, the property feels far from stuffy or outdated, thanks to a curation of playful and contemporary elements brought to life by real estate development firm AJ Capital Partners.
In the “Living Room” of the hotel’s newest restaurant concept Jack Rose (formerly the famed Caribbean Room), dozens of framed vintage floral paintings flank the piece de resistance — a portrait by local artist Ashley Longshore of New Orleans-born rapper Lil’ Wayne, who flashes a wide diamond-encrusted grin while holding a staggering slice of Mile High Pie, the hotel’s signature dessert. The eye-catching display is excellent fodder for Instagram snaps, as is the 270-degree view of downtown New Orleans and the Mississippi River at rooftop bar Hot Tin. Lively crowds of 20-somethings frequent this indoor-outdoor bar throughout the week, also confirming how on-trend The Pontchartrain truly is.
Guests will also find an elevated attention to detail in the guestrooms. Accommodations are intended to feel residential — something that my partner and I took very seriously, as we schemed ways to move into our spacious Calliope King Suite. And like the hotel’s shared spaces, there are plenty of details to admire: Eclectic art and Caribbean- and European-style furniture — including antique mirrors and tufted furniture in velvet or leather — beautifully complement a Garden District-inspired color palette of peony pink, ivy green, mint green and gold hues.
Meanwhile, walls are adorned with an eclectic variety of art, such as a painting of a tropical locale, a pen sketch of playwright Williams and a painted female figure. In the black, white and mint-green bathroom, a medicine cabinet offers a tongue-in-cheek assortment of vintage bottles, from aromatic bitters to one labeled “poison.” The cabinet is display only, so look, but don’t touch — and reach for the Le Labo toiletries instead.
Rather than the typical “do not disturb” paper signs found at most hotels, The Pontchartrain presents chic tassels for use: a teal-green tassel on the doorknob indicates a request for service, while the red one designates a desire for privacy. The minibar won’t have the usual suspects, either: Instead, guests can sip and nosh on items sourced locally, including handcrafted El Guapo bitters, Louisiana Lagniappe beef jerky and Creole spice snack mix. Additionally, Wi-Fi access is complimentary.
Sure, 2018 might not be widely considered The Pontchartrain’s heyday — but after my outstanding stay, I’d make a case for otherwise.
The DetailsThe Pontchartrain Hotelwww.thepontchartrainhotel.com